Second Bank of the United States/Portrait Gallery

If ever you're in Philadelphia, this Portrait Gallery Museum ought to be at the top of your "must-visit" list.

I saw this Portrait Gallery for the first time during the PSOA Conference in 2008. It is located at 420 Chestnut Street (Between S. 4th and S. 5th), Philadelphia.

The building was originally a bank modeled on the Parthenon in Greece. Today the bank is home to this extraordinary Portrait Gallery.

Inside the barrel-vaulted structure, graceful Ionic columns compliment the portraits of revolutionary heroes and Federal statesman.

Those painted represent a Who's Who of the 18th century. There are signers of the Declaration and Constitution in addition to military men and foreign emissaries. 

This museum recreates the appearance of Charles Wilson Peale's "Philadelphia Museum" and displays many of the paintings he created for it. Other artists include James Sharples and Thomas Sully.

They have an "Art for Hire" exhibit that explores how 18th century artists painted and marketed their customers' portraits.

It was hard to photograph inside the building and their only catalog shows small black and white pictures.
Drat. Considering that this is our nation's second biggest and most important portrait gallery - I would like to see a decent catalog.

However, the collection is magnificent and as a portrait painter it is certainly a place I'll visit again and again.

I particularly like to study detail of costume and composition. In this picture (detail above) the subject is wearing tiny portraits of various members of her family on both wrists and on her buttons.

This hat really frames the face and makes the portrait. Because of the lighting, I was unable to capture the entire painting. Double drat.

"Clothing does not make the man - but it sure makes a successful portrait!" And you can quote me on this.

Another rule of thumb in a painting is to "Make Every Square Inch Interesting" and you can quote me on this one too.

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